Or… On The Futility of Parody
I was driving home from work on Monday afternoon, mulling over all the news that had come out about the motor industry over the previous couple of days. If you haven’t kept abreast of developments, basically all the UK-based manufacturers, from Jaguar to Toyota to BMW, are now vocally “reconsidering their continued investment” in UK manufacturing post-Brexit. That’s more than 800,000 jobs directly employed in the industry, plus a whole bunch more in supporting roles, that are at risk because of Brexit.
As I was driving along, I came up behind an old Series III Land Rover. You know, the sort of classic dark green job you might see in Four Weddings and a Funeral*. And it was heeling over drunkenly to one side and meandering smokily along as old Land Rovers often do.
It occurred to me that there was some sort of Brexiteer metaphor here. Because people still claim the Land Rover is the world’s best off-road vehicle. Now, it may, in the 1950s, have been a jolly super way to rescue your lion cubs from poachers in Kenya, but what it has mainly been since is slow, unreliable, uneconomical and nasty to drive.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Land Rover, but it hasn’t been the best off-road vehicle in decades, and no amount of Richard Curtis movies is going to change that.
So anyway, I was trying to work up some sort of Brexit metaphor on the subject, a parable if you will, because as I say the motor industry has been all over the news and that. I got as far as sketching out a bit about Middle Englanders thinking the height of sophistication is their 1956 Rover P4 (Look! It’s got a handy shelf in the back window where you can put a tartan-covered box of tissues!) and something about how things have moved on and modern cars actually require modern production methods, before I forgot all about it.
Then something happened which made me realise that no matter how outlandish the Brexit parody we write, the actual idiots will far out-do us. Because…
The very next morning, BBC Radio 2 news had a piece on an oil billionaire who is looking – I absolutely kid you not – to revive the Land Rover. Not a “Land Rover reimagined for the 21st Century”. Not an efficient, cheaply-made, spartan utility vehicle designed and manufactured using the most modern methods, with crash safety and environmental efficiency and maintainability at the heart of its design. No. The actual Land Rover. Because, as he pointed out in a sound-bite interview, the Land Rover is the best off-road vehicle in the world.
And he wants money from the UK Government to build it in the UK.
An actual oil billionaire. An actual oil billionaire trying to get the rest of us to pay for his nostalgic, rose-tinted journey back to 1948, which was never as good as we like to kid ourselves it was, and which now is irrelevant at best and actively harmful at worst. An actual oil billionaire whose plan is founded in large part on taking the fruits of other people’s work and not paying for it. And. like the finest patriotic billionaire, if he doesn’t get a hand-out from the UK taxpayer to make the project profitable for him, he’ll build it abroad instead.
Looks like I found that Brexit parable.
* Yes, I know the Land Rover in Four Weddings was a Series IIa. Don’t write in.
“Two Land Rovers” graphic supplied by Alexis Taylor
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